Each year, the ATF publishes the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report (AFMER), providing detailed firearm production and export numbers for a given year.
The data is reported by federally licensed manufacturers of firearms and destructive devices (Federal Firearms License types 07 and 10), which are required to submit a production report of manufacturing and export activity to ATF by April 1 of each year. The ATF then compiles the submitted data and releases it each January, with a one-year delay to comply with the Trade Secrets Act.
Published this year, the 2021 AFMER offers the latest publicly available data about the manufacture and export of firearms in the United States. The report is divided by firearm type, listing every manufacturer responsible for producing a single pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun or “Misc. Firearm,” further broken down by caliber, offering a detailed look at who is producing what and how much.
According to the report, nearly 8 million handguns were produced in 2021, accounting for more than 63% of all firearms produced that year. And while 9mm pistols unsurprisingly continue to dominate the U.S. pistol landscape, an often overlooked category continues to prove detractors wrong — wheelguns.
In 2021, more than 1 million revolvers were produced in the U.S. for the first time (1,159,918), a 16.8% increase year-over-year (from 993,078). Let’s take a look at the top 10 revolver manufacturers of 2021 who helped make the milestone achievement possible.
10. Nighthawk Custom
After dropping out of the top 10 in 2020, Nighthawk Custom is back to round out the list for 2021.
In 2016, Nighthawk Custom partnered with legendary German firearm manufacturer Korth to develop and import their high-end revolvers. in a review of the Mongoose Carry Special and Heritage models Roy Huntington wrote, “Nighthawk Custom’s collaboration with the German makers of the astounding Korth revolver series has helped serve to rewrite expectations on what a revolver can — or might — be.”
Total Revolvers: 1,110
2020 Rank: #11 (799)
9. Magnum Research, Inc.
The embodiment of “bigger is better,” Magnum Research is best known for the Desert Eagle but has also become popular for the BFR, or Biggest Finest Revolver.
Offered in 10 pistol (short cylinder) and rifle (long cylinder) calibers, as well as barrel lengths ranging from 5”–10”, MRI produced 1,833 revolvers in 2021, including over 1,000 chambered to .50.
Total Revolvers: 1,833
2020 Rank: #9 (1,665)
8. Automated Finishing Co. Inc.
Automated Finishing Co. Inc. more than doubled its production in 2021, moving up two positions to #8. Not bad for a company that started out as a hand engraving company in the 1940s.
Total Revolvers: 2,053
2020 Rank: #10 (867)
7. Standard Mfg. Co.
Although Standard Mfg. Co. produced slightly fewer revolvers in 2021 than the year prior, the company managed to hold onto its #7 spot on the list.
Total Revolvers: 16,975
2020 Rank: #7 (17,254)
6. Kimber Mfg. Inc.
Moving up two positions from the previous year, Kimber Mfg. slides into #6 with 16,975 revolvers produced in 2021.
This was the year Kimber released the K6xs, a smaller, lighter-weight version of its K6s. Built specifically for concealed carry, the K6sx is chambered in .38 SPL +P.
Total Revolvers: 16,975
2020 Rank: #8 (12,622)
5. North American Arms Inc.
When it comes to pocket pistols, they don’t get any smaller than North American Arms. While NAA produces semi-auto pistols in .32 and .380 calibers, they specialize in rimfire mini-revolvers.
A bit of history …
In the 1980s, Dick Casull (of .454 Casull fame) owned Rocky Mountain Arms, which later became North American Arms.
After several years, he and his then partner, Wayne Baker, “sold” NAA to Frank Talley of Talley Manufacturing and moved to Freedom, Wyo. to reengineer NAA’s line of mini-revolvers and large-frame single-action revolvers. NAA’s version was chambered in 45 Long Colt/450 Magnum Express, while the new Freedom Arms’ models were chambered in the eponymous 454 Casull.
After both companies manufactured both product lines for several years, NAA discontinued manufacturing of the large revolver, and Freedom discontinued producing the mini-revolvers.
Today, NAA is known for its mini-revolvers, while Freedom Arms, which ranks 12th on this list, is known for its big bores.
Total Revolvers: 57,142
2020 Rank: #4 (50,562)
4. Colt’s Mfg. Co.
Colt’s Mfg. Co. moved up one spot in 2021 to #4 on the list with 65,062 total revolvers produced.
In 2021, Colt brought back the Python in stainless steel. Available in three barrel lengths, it’s available chambered in .357 Magnum and also accommodates .38 Special cartridges. In the same year, Colt also released the Anaconda in .44 Magnum.
Total Revolvers: 65,062
2020 Rank: #5 (333,539)
3. Smith & Wesson Inc.
Smith & Wesson Inc. was the top overall producer and top handgun producer in 2021. Despite a year-over-year decrease in revolver production, the company managed to hold onto its top three spot in the category.
The majority of the company’s revolver production was in the “to .38” grouping (63.6%).
Total Revolvers: 232,476
2020 Rank: #3 (267,468)
2. Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. was the only manufacturer in 2021’s top 10 who produced revolvers in all six caliber groupings.
Producing 276,999 total revolvers, 209,845 (%) were chambered in .22 caliber, 35,759 (%) in .357 and 19,409 (%) in .38.
Total Revolvers: 276,999
2020 Rank: #2 (269,160)
1. Heritage Mfg. Inc.
Heritage Mfg. dominated the revolver category, producing 42% of all U.S.-made revolvers in 2021. The company has been the top producer of revolvers since 2019.
There were 781,246 .22-caliber revolvers produced in 2021, of which 491,822 (63%) were produced by Heritage Mfg.
Total Revolvers: 492,584
2020 Rank: #1 (306,159)